Monday, July 30, 2012

San Francisco Marathon or How wHBO Got Her Groove Back

Yeah buddy!
To begin with, I will openly admit that I, wHBO, did not respect the Marathon and as such, did not train anywhere near as intensively as is necessary to run a successful 26.2miles. Now before you get mad, understand that I recognize what I did was stupid, that I could have severely injured myself. But I didn't, the lesson has been learned, now hear me out: I could sit here and make excuses such as, "I didn't have the time" or "I was sick," or "I lost my confidence after the run in Pittsburgh," but let's be honest- I was lazy. Maybe illness, unemployed depression and losing my running confidence played a part in what lead me to barely train, but at the end of the day only I am accountable for making the decision to train or not train and I chose poorly between the two options. 

Now, all that being said, yesterday's marathon was awesome. Was it a PR? Not by any means. In fact, my official time was 12mins slower than my PR (we'll get to this in a moment). Was it injury free? For the most part- the cramping in my legs which has been an issue since February seems to have mostly sorted itself out, only to introduce a new sort of muscle spasm - four little charlie horses spasming up and back down my calf. If I hadn't been in the middle of a marathon (quite literally at 13.1miles) I would have laughed, the feeling was so ridiculous.

So why was the race so awesome? Easy enough to answer - I just hung out. Throwing all pressure and aspirations of setting a PR out the window, I locked into a low gear and just ran on and on. It's so easy to forget the joy of running for the sake of running, that it was refreshing to just kind of hang out and go for 5hrs through the streets of San Francisco. It gave me the opportunity to connect with the people, the spectators and the city. 

The Party Pace Wave
When originally rego'd, I had dreams of cutting 7mins off my time from last year, and thus was given a spot in Wave 6, or as I like to call it, 'The Party Pacers'. We were off at 6:12 on the nose (SF Marathon is painfully punctual, a good thing) running up Embarcadero on the tails of Wave 5 before us. In Fisherman's Wharf I stopped to give directions to a lost German tourist looking confusedly at his map, then up at the mass of sweaty Americans trudging towards him, then back to the map (he was trying to find the Transamerica Pyramid), and then continued through Aquatic Park (it was nice to run that length of Embarc without getting tripped for once), up the backside of Fort Mason (I made it up the hill w/o stopping!) and down into the Marina. Different from last year, the Veterans cheer station had moved from Ft. Mason down onto Crissy Field just past the first Sports Basement cheering station (no Bull this year, sadly). It still remains one of the most memorable parts of the SF Marathon and it was lovely to see so many runners remove their caps and pay their respects. 

From there we ran up into the Presidio to begin the traverse of the Golden Gate Bridge. I hate that part, so of course ran it faster than any other section of the race. Also- the bathrooms at the turnaround are clean and have soap and water, props to Marin for displaying their wealth with real toilets. Crossed paths with the indomitable Endorphin Dude while on the Bridge, saw a girl dressed as Tinkerbell and found a NYC Hasher as well!

Next, we returned to the Presidio for the best downhill stretch ever. Holo Solo, in thinking I'd be running slower, hit the snooze on his alarm and missed me at the Mile 10 aid station, but that was probably for the best as I was practically flying down the hill. This year, as opposed to last year, I caught different traffic deiversions of the route and now understand why people complain about the hills of the SF Marathon. The difference in the course between running 27th and 29th is stark. 27th offers a low grade incline for about a block or two, nothing unmanageable, before the descent into Golden Gate Park. 29th, however, is rolling hills all the way. Interesting!

Mile 13.1 of the full course comes up pretty quickly after entering Golden Gate, right around Marx Field, and this is where those strange spasms started occurring in my legs. Taking a moment to stretch out my calves and choke down some Ibuprofen, I trudged along towards the Bison Paddock. The Bison were, saldy, nowhere to be seen - perhaps they remembered what I did to their restroom last year?

Oh hah hah, guys.
At the turnaround onto Martin Luther King Blvd (Mile 14.5). I chanced to look down and see "YBF" drawn on the ground, so of course I had to run back to take a picture and from then on the course played touch-and-go with a Gypsies H3 trail laid by Who's Your Daddy roughly two weeks ago, it's always fun to have a little bit of a hash trail during a marathon, made me giggle at least. "YBF"? No f*cking kidding!

As always, the park is great for cheering stations and bands, which is nice as it's my least favorite part. Knowing the area better this year I was less turned around, yet Stow Lake seemed to take forever to get to. Yet, once I was there, the mile loop around seemed like nothing, especially knowing that just one more mile down the road was the SFH3 beer check!

Holo Solo finally caught up with me at Mile 18 and ran the .5 into the beer check where I loaded up on Nuun, Ibuprofen, IcyHot, extra Gu and, of course, beers. As reigning RA I took the privilege of downing four small cups of the beer, and then refilling them for more. Because, y'know, beer = good.

Saying bye to the Hash and Holo Solo, it was time to rocket down Haight, which is always fun. The Homeless and the Hippies are out in full force cheering you on as the Cops and Harley Guys dance in the street to music being blasted from apartment windows, always such a great part of the race. Unfortunately, it is also the part with traffic holds...of which I caught every single one (so there goes my sub 5hr marathon!). Annoyed, I rocketed out of the hold at Scott and Waller and lead the pack to the next one. Definitely felt like a rockstar for the four blocks I was in first :)

Coming up on the 16th St. hill, I ran with a woman carrying a 2 Gal. water bottle and had a conversation I will never forget. The woman, who's name and bib number I failed to get, told me this was her 2nd marathon, LA back in March was her first. I asked what got her running and she said, matter-of-factly, "In December I left my abusive husband of 9 years. He didn't let me run, so now I do marathons."


Then she went on, "My 14yr old daughter is behind us somewhere, I stopped at a corner store to buy this water in case she catches up and is thirsty," Cue wHBO's marathon emotions bubbling to a teary rise. "I just want to be a good example, a good mother, a good role model for my daughter."

And that, my friends, is why marathoners are amazing. This fantastic woman, who gathered the courage to remove herself and her daughter from a bad situation, was now running marathons to show her daughter what people are capable of, what good people can do, what determination can get you. Holy shit. She is my Marathon Hero.

Go Giants!
The rest of the race, after that, was pretty much a blur. I think my brain realized that it had met the Most Inspirational Person and just kind of shut down for the last 6 miles. I do remember running past all the Giants tailgaters, with their grills cooking up delicious meats that I wanted to devour, and one man yelling, "Go runners!" in between bites from his hot dog and sips of beer. I was about .5 seconds away from reaching out and stealing his food; but nay! The finish line approached!

My official time was 5:06, not great, but the race itself taught me a few things worth more than a PR:
  1. I really need to train for this shit. Muscle memory carried my legs for 26.2 miles, but it was a fight towards the end. Don't be like me.
  2. Sometimes you just have to run for the sake of running. 
  3. There are some amazing people out there and I am blessed to have the opportunity to meet and have them inspire me to be better.
  4. I can run. I'd forgotten I could run, the year has been hard on my racing, even those events I trained properly for. SF Marathon reminded me that I can actually do this.
So there you have it! My exceptionally long-winded SF Marathon write-up. Lessons were learned, medals were earned, fun was had and I devoured half an large Carnalicious Pizza from Giorgio's and drank all the beers with the Hash at Ireland's 32 afterwards. All-in-all a wonderful day :)

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